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Identifying High-Impact Arts and Culture Nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area

September 19th, 2012 by admin Leave a reply »

In the 1960s, there was an explosion of nonprofit arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1961, before the birth of the National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco passed a law to require part of the hotel tax to go to funding the arts. Over time, each Bay Area region evolved to have different kinds of arts and culture groups across disciplines, styles, and ethnicities: jazz, classical, folk, performing arts, choreography, visual arts, literary arts, poetry, film, video, and so on. In fact, at one point, the San Francisco Bay Area was second only to New York in terms of having the largest number of dance companies. Therefore, with decades of support and development, the vibrancy and variety among the arts in the Bay Area has led to a unique texture in the cultural fabric of this region. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of arts and culture nonprofits, of all sizes and varieties, all across the Bay Area. 

In 2010, we launched our research to identify high-impact arts and culture nonprofits working in the San Francisco Bay Area. In many ways access to artistic and cultural activities is essential for a vibrant and healthy community. For this local cause, 127 Bay Area arts and culture experts identified 21 top nonprofits working in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We are now refreshing these research results (we re-run our research every three years), and we’re inviting experts once again to help identify high-impact arts and culture nonprofits working in the Bay Area. We hope that many of you will participate in this research to help inform individual donors about which nonprofits are making the biggest impact in Bay Area arts and culture!

Scope of the Research

In this research we are asking experts to recommend up to four nonprofits doing high-impact work around arts and culture in the Bay Area, and up to two start-up nonprofits that have the potential to scale and have an impact in the future.

The nonprofits recommended might be working or supporting arts and culture as far south as San Jose, along the Peninsula, into the East Bay, in San Francisco, and just north of San Francisco, as well.

Arts and culture is a diverse field and we encourage experts to consider all of the types of work that nonprofits may be doing to create an impact in this field. Nonprofits can serve any age or demographic and have any budget size.

Focus areas might include:

  • Developing or producing new work
  • Engaging and supporting artists directly
  • Exhibition and performance
  • Increasing arts and culture access for traditionally marginalized populations
  • Offering educational services
  • Preserving and promoting traditional culture
  • Providing arts grants

We are encouraging experts to consider the following types of organizations when making their recommendations:

  • Traditional arts and culture organizations: theatre, dance, music, visual arts, television, media, and film organizations
  • Funders: organizations that fund nonprofit organizations or artists themselves
  • Policy and advocacy organizations: groups that organize people to support arts in the public policy space
  • Educators: schools or organizations that teach arts

Additionally, experts are encouraged to consider the following kinds of arts disciplines:

  • Design and architecture
  • Literary arts (comics, literature, poetry)
  • Media arts (film/video, new media, interactive computer based virtual art)
  • Music (blues, classical, country, electronic, folk, hip hop, international, jazz, rock/pop)
  • Performing arts (dance, opera, theatre)
  • Visual arts (ceramics, design, fashion, multi-media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, 3D, 2D, fiber arts)

Participation in the Research

If you are an expert (foundation staff, researcher, nonprofit staff member, government official, etc.) working in Bay Area Arts and Culture we’d love to hear from you. You may have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until early November 2012. We hope you will share your perspective and insights! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at with information about your current position and background, and we would be happy to send the survey to you to include your recommendations.

Additionally, we invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might frame this type of work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, we hope you learned something new and will check in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!



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